Ask and it shall be given unto you.
Stuntwoman and actress Janeshia Adams-Ginyard took that Scripture to heart when she started thanking God in prayer every day for landing a role in a blockbuster film that hadn’t even begun auditions yet.
“[Every day my prayers] always started off with, ‘Lord Jesus, I thank you in advance for Black Panther,'” Ginyard tells Guideposts.org of her ritual praise to be a stuntwoman in the big-budget superhero movie whose pre-sale ticket sales have sold more than any other superhero film to date. But she didn’t just pray.
“In April 2016, my stunt mentor comes to me and she says, ‘Hey, they’re gonna be doing this Black Panther movie, and you get that TaeKwonDo stuff up, get your kicks and everything up because they’re gonna need you. They’re gonna need your skills.'” Ginyard hadn’t heard anything about casting for Marvel’s newest tentpole film, but she trusted her mentor, who had just wrapped working on the Marvel film Captain America: Civil War, where the superhero Black Panther is first introduced. Ginyard went to work, strengthening her skills and believing God had a stuntwoman role for her in what was sure to be a hit franchise of its own.
In September 2016, Ginyard got the email she and her church family had been praying for.
“I had an audition with Sarah Finn Casting, who is the casting director for basically all the Marvel Movies for an ‘Untitled Marvel Feature.’ Well, I already knew what that was. I’m like, ‘It’s Black Panther!'” She says. “Next thing you know they flew me to Atlanta to meet [director] Ryan Coogler, and I had the audition in front of him and a lot of the big wigs.”
Ginyard showed off her TaeKwonDo skills and learned the choreography they taught her for a fight sequence during the grueling auditions.
“And then I get a final email: ‘Hey, if you’re receiving this email you’ve been selected. You made it,” she says, “So, from the time I auditioned in front of Ryan, to the time I flew down to Atlanta to start shooting, was probably less than two weeks.”
She’d gotten the job she’d prayed for, but God wasn’t finished blessing her for her faith.
Once she found out that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o was going to star in Black Panther, Ginyard had been praying to be her stunt double.
“The Lord was like, “I’ve got something bigger and better for you.”
Though Nyong’o is fantastic in the film and has her fair share of action, The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira steals the show as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje army of Black Panther’s country, Wakanda. Gurira is the breakout female lead of the film, with the most screen time and action sequences. Ginyard was chosen to double for her.
“And by doubling [Gurira], I have been able to cross over and do doubling on Avengers. Oh, I get chills! [God] is always working on my behalf,” she says.
Not only does Ginyard now get to be a stunt double in two Marvel franchises, she also plays a role as a member of the Dora Milaje in Black Panther and stars in a Lexus commercial for the film that aired during the Super Bowl.
“I would be on set I would, every day, [saying] ‘Thank you, Jesus for this opportunity. Thank you so much for blessings, overflowing.”
To gain the faith she had that God would work her dreams out in her favor, Ginyard only had to look back over her life.
A lifelong athlete, the Los Angeles native competed on the U.S. national bobsled team from 2006-2007 before making the switch to stunt work. Just as with her role in Black Panther Ginyard spoke her career into existence.
“Every time somebody asked me, ‘What do you do?’ ‘I’m a stunt woman,'” she’d answer, though she’d never done a stunt in her life.
“You have to speak life and positivity,” she says to those pursuing their dreams against the odds. “Surround yourself around people who want to see you grow, who help you, who speak life, who encourage you, who motivate you.”
Ginyard was able to hold onto faith and positivity, even at a particularly low point in her life, before her career took off.
“I almost lost my life in a car accident where a lady T-boned me, and I was riding my bike for 10 months. I was riding my bike to church, getting on the Blue Line, walking places, you know what I mean? So, I feel like He rewards His children when you are faithful to him.”
Even after landing the role of a lifetime, everything wasn’t smooth sailing for Ginyard on set. She soon learned that she would have to shave her head for the role, taking on the iconic image of Wakanda’s bald-headed all-female warriors.
“I’m telling you, I tried every way possible to get out of it,” Ginyard laughs. “I emailed the coordinator. I said, ‘Can they put a bald cap on me?'” But the coordinator wasn’t having it. “I was crying, I was boo-hooing.” Then, she called her pastor who had been praying with her for this opportunity before, during and after auditions. “When I told him about me having to shave my head he says, ‘Wait a minute. Jesus sacrificed it all on the cross. You mean to tell me you can’t sacrifice your hair?’ He says, ‘I will tell you this: your sacrifice will never be more than the reward.’ I said, ‘Ooh wee, bring on them clippers.’ I was juiced! I did not shed one tear when those razors hit my head.”
Through all of the valleys and roadblocks on Ginyard’s path to living out her calling, Scripture has helped her to keep the faith.
“He said in Psalms 23:5 He will prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Hebrews 1:13, I believe, says, ‘Your enemies will become your footstools,'” she says, remembering the naysayers who tried to deter her from pursuing her dream of becoming a stuntwoman.
“Because people who didn’t like me, or people who tried to set up roadblocks and hurdles for me, they can’t turn on [a] media outlet without seeing me. I’m all over the place! So, you know, He’s gonna always fight your battles for you. You ain’t gotta do nothing but sit back and laugh,” she says.